Tokyo International Forum

by | 03. Aug 2012

Commercial | Cultural | Project

Photo: arcspace


The Tokyo International Forum, Japan’s largest congress center, is situated on the boundary between Marunouchi, Tokyo’s central business area and the Ginza shopping and entertainment district. 

Rafael Viñoly Architects won the 1989 International Design Competition, the first international architectural competition in Japan, held by the Union Internationale des Architectes (UIA).

The tracks of Japan Railways, the city’s principal system of transportation, bounds the eastern elevation with two of the most heavily used train stations, Tokyo and Yarakucho stations, located to the north and south.

The International Forum includes two theaters, one among the largest in the world, over 6,000 square meters of exhibition space, several conference rooms, restaurants, shops and other amenities.


Photo: arcspace


The main elements of the Forum are a 60 meter high hull-shaped glass and steel atrium on the west end of the site and a cluster of block like buildings, housing the theaters, restaurants and shops, along the east end of the site.

At night the Glass Hall actually glows and has been described as resembling a boat sailing on the foam of the ocean.
/Charles Blomberg
Project manager and designer
Rafael Viñoly Architects

Photo: arcspace


The two-block granite paved Plaza at the center of the complex serves not only as the entry point for the complex, but as a public space with seating among Zelkova trees  and sculptures.

The atrium and other structures are linked by two levels of underground space as well as several above ground glass encased catwalks.


Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace


A series of civic functions; a library, mediatech, restaurants, cafes, shops, an art gallery, and a 24-hour multi-media theater provide the activities that give the space its public character. In addition, the space is activated by the theater lobbies that overlook the Plaza at second floor level. Fire stairs hung from the main structure serve as expansion space for the lobbies during intermissions.


Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace


Under the Plaza a Concourse connects the public to local and regional rail networks. Containing a food court with shopping, continuing education facilities and an International Exchange Salon, the circulation of the Concourse wraps around a central Exhibition Hall and becomes itself the main floor of the Glass Hall.


Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace  


The soaring Glass Hall serves as the main reception area for the Forum.  By using laminated glass the architects were able to allow sunlight into the below ground Lobby area. Laminated glass was also used for several walkways and bridges giving them the appearance of flying across space.


Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace


A ramp along the length of the Glass Hall, leading to the top of the building, is intersected by a number of bridges that, in addition to connecting spaces, work as horizontal struts to resist the wind pressure on the walls of the Glass Hall.
Semicircular steel girders are suspended from the 210 meter long ceiling in a design which mimics the wooden frame of a ship.  Two huge Columns support Roof Structure.

The Glass Hall facade uses approximately 20,000 square meters of 17.5mm laminated, heat-strengthened glass.

Laminated glass is made by sandwiching a plastic interlayer between two panes of glass and has been commonly found in car windshields for nearly 60 years.
By using laminated glass the architects were able to meet both the aesthetic needs of the center’s design, as well as provide the safety and comfort features necessary for a structure that would be highly populated.


Aerial View



Photo: arcspaceGround Floor Plan


In Japan, the major obstacle to acceptance is to demonstrate commitment. It seems difficult for us nowadays to be committed for the long haul. I moved to Japan and took most of my office along. Together with those hired in Tokyo, we had 250 people from our office on site together with 800 engineers.
/Rafael Viñoly